Having a baby is a dream for some women and a nightmare for others. Not all women are in situations where they can have babies easily and happily. When things don’t go well for a woman, abortion may be the only option she is left with. Medically speaking, abortion is forced termination of a viable pregnancy. Many moral issues and stigma surround abortion, and sometimes it is not a personal choice, but a medical necessity.
Regardless of the situation, abortion is not a push-the-button approach. It carries its own set of complications and side effects that affect women on both the physical and emotional level. Although it is generally safe when done at the hands of professional competent doctors, it comes with some consequences that are worth considering. Even women who already made their decision need to be aware and educated on the subject. This phase is a lot to deal with and the outcomes could be devastating in the near or far future.
The following list contains 15 important points on the post-abortion phase. They may not all happen at once or all to the same individual, but each woman is bound to suffer at least a few of them after she has an abortion. Women are usually too confused to make a decision on their own. Also, although the father is not the one carrying the fetus, his opinion matters as long as he is available, involved and supportive. This is why they should consider all the aspects before deciding to ring their doctor for an appointment.
15 Bed Rest
For starters, a woman cannot simply resume her normal life right after an abortion. Having this procedure is a BIG deal. It affects the body in so many ways that women simply need time to heal and recover well. This could mean less time tending to chores or kids, or days and days off work. The duration of bed rest depends on the general health of the woman and the details of the procedure, but it is expected, and needed.
Under normal conditions, the bed rest could be brief. However, some women are not so lucky. They may develop problems that make their doctors confine them to the bed for weeks before they can resume their normal lifestyles. Women are prohibited from heavy lifting and exercise. Sex and tampons are also off the table until the doctor permits it. This is because anything inserted in the vagina can promote infections and inflammations.
14 Heavy Or Persistent Bleeding
Bleeding is a common expected thing that happens after terminating a pregnancy. The process involves detachment of the placenta, which is attached to the uterus. Therefore, most of the blood in the blood vessels connecting those two structures is lost during the operation. Afterwards, the uterus needs to heal, but this is not always a smooth process. Sometimes the bleeding persists for a longer time or becomes heavier than expected.
Many women think that post-abortion bleeding is like a period. They believe it subsides within a few days and gradually lessens. This is far from the truth. Bleeding after an abortion is usually a lot heavier, given that this is a forced process. Also, it does not mark a new menstrual cycle because the hormones are not adjusted as they would be in normal conditions. If heavy excessive bleeding does not stop, the woman should consult her doctor and check her iron levels to prevent anemia.
13 Anesthesia-related Issues
Anesthesia is the term given to the use of any form of drugs that are given to lessen pain during an operation or to cause the patient to be unconscious so they do not feel or see anything. Anesthesia could be given orally, intravenously, by inhalation, or a combination of two of these forms. In theory, the anesthesiologist knows what they are doing and considers the medical history of the patient before choosing a method and a drug. Yet, some problems cannot be avoided.
No abortion can be completed without anesthesia. The process is too painful and traumatizing to be done without any pain relief. Complications from anesthesia can be bearable, such as nausea and vomiting, or advanced and dangerous like anaphylaxis. Local anesthesia can also result in hypotension, respiratory failure or nerve block and in worse cases nerve damage. This could lead anywhere from persistent pain to paralysis.
Women who have had abortions are at a higher risk of developing some cancer types. First, the risk of breast cancer increases by 2.3 times. The risk goes up to 4.92 in women have had multiple abortions. Also, other cancers such as liver and ovarian are linked to single and multiple abortions. This is why women should put their initial risks into consideration before having an abortion. That includes checking their family history before they do something that increases their risks of developing life-threatening diseases.
Some studies show that the most possible reason of such risks is hormone-related. It is believed that forced change in the hormones of the body suddenly during an abortion can mess up their sensitive cycles. This could cause unwanted reactions of those hormones on other body parts. Accordingly, cancer cells might develop unexpectedly in other organs, not necessarily related to the reproductive system.
11 Uterine Perforation
During an abortion, the uterus is invaded by a number of tools. Those tools could easily penetrate a blood vessel that they shouldn’t, causing perforations in the uterus. This could lead to death if bleeding was not controlled immediately. The excessive bleeding is not only related to the amount of blood lost, but to the suddenness of it. When blood is lost at such an alarming rate within minutes, it could lead to hypotension and death.
Another issue here is that if a woman survives this accident, she will have lost too much blood. This is translated into anemia, lack of energy and possible decrease is certain functions, such as digestion. It could also affect the brain, since the bran needs circulation and oxygen every second of life. Of course, because it is localized in the uterus, this perforation will affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant later if she wants to.
10 Cervical Damage
Speaking of local damage, cervical issues are yet another leading cause of long-term complications following an abortion. In normal states, the cervix is rigid and tightly closed. In order to perform an abortion, the cervix must be stretched open with a great deal of force in little time. During this forced dilation, there is almost always microscopic tearing, called micro fractures, of the cervical muscles and occasionally severe ripping of the uterine wall as well. Sometimes those small tears are left untreated and harm future reproductive health.
The damage in the cervix takes forever to heal and can be horrifyingly painful. Some cervical lacerations require stitching and can cause persistent bleeding. Those occur in around 1 percent of first trimester abortions. The damage caused to the cervix post-abortion could lead to cervical incompetence, which jeopardizes future pregnancies and births and increases the risks of labor complications. Second trimester abortions are the most at risk for cervical lacerations.
9 Future Placenta Previa
Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta partially or fully covers the cervical opening during pregnancy. Usually, doctors recommend bed rest if possible because it is considered a risky condition. If the condition does not subside on its own by the last few weeks of pregnancy, the answer is almost always getting a C-section. This is done to bypass the route of the cervical opening and get the baby out.
If heavy bleeding occurs in a woman with placenta previa, she should call her doctor immediately. The baby’s heart should be checked to make sure that the baby is fine. If necessary, amniocentesis is performed to determine lung development in the fetus and consider the possibility of C-section at this point. The same goes for contractions, because they may signal early labor and this could lead to the baby being born prematurely, leading to a need to place it in the NICU.
8 Future Preterm Delivery
Because abortions cause damage to the uterus and the cervix, premature delivery becomes a highly possible scenario in the future. While abortions may not affect the possibility of conception, they do hinder the body’s ability to carry future babies to term. Research has found that among teenagers whose first pregnancies were aborted, 66 percent of them subsequently experienced premature birth or miscarriages of their second, "wanted" pregnancies. Women with multiple abortions are at the highest risk compared to those with a single abortion.
Biologically, this result is related to the uterus and the cervix. Uterine muscles require their full strength to carry to term. After all, the weight of a fetus, placenta and amniotic fluid sustained for such a long time is a lot to bear. A uterus with weakened muscles cannot hold up that long. The cervix, similarly, can weaken. This leads to premature opening during a pregnancy, known as incompetent cervix, causing premature labor.
7 Septic Abortions
A septic abortion is a uterine infection that happens shortly after an abortion. It could happen due to lack of sterility of the tools used during the procedure. One or more microorganism could be the causative agent of the infection. The risk decreases when the patient fully finishes the antibiotic course assigned to her by her doctor as a standard post-abortion measure. The infection presents itself with typical signs, such as fever, foul vaginal discharge, and exhaustion.
Because incomplete abortions are a leading cause of this condition, the first solution is to make sure the uterus is empty. If not, a second procedure is done to ensure that it is emptied totally. Also, intensive antibiotic therapy is given. This could include antibiotic therapy through intravenous routes if the patient is unable to consume it orally, or to achieve faster life-saving results. One or more antibiotics could be given simultaneously, depending on the case.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that happens to people following an extremely stressful or traumatic event. It may take up to three months after a traumatic incident for symptoms to appear. They include flashbacks, constant worry, lack of sleep, and general decrease in emotional well being, including mood swings. Prolonged symptoms call for treatment at once. Usually, medication is needed because this disorder turns from a psychological condition to one that affects normal biological functions.
PTSD could arise in women who are forced to abort. It could also happen to women whose abortions do not go as planned and are extremely more painful and traumatic than expected. Some women view abortion as death and could start being less comfortable with it after it is done. This leads to them seeing the whole process as a life-changing event from which they have trouble recovering. When linked to abortion, this disorder is named post-abortion syndrome (PAS).
Anxiety may or may not be a part of PTSD. If it is not, it involves being constantly scared. When a woman develops anxiety, she never feels safe, not even in her own home. Feelings of stress and living “on the edge” never leave her, no matter how hard she tries to relax. It involves increased stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for “fight-or-flight” responses.
This is worse if a woman has kids. A mother is always worrying about what could go wrong with her children. She dreads that call from school or daycare because she thinks there is a possibility of something bad happening. A woman with anxiety always thinks something is wrong and is more inclined to believe in worse-case scenarios. This makes life unbearable for her and she could get sick from stress. She could develop all kinds of diseases associated with stress, such as diabetes and hypertension.
4 Guilt And Regret
Many women experience regret and guilt over killing their own fetus. Scientifically, it is argued that there is a certain time in which life begins and therefore early abortions do not really count as killing. However, the feeling of guilt often does not leave the women easily. Some women are happy to get rid of unwanted pregnancies on the spot. Later in life, they begin to wonder what it would have been like to have that baby, what it would have looked like, what it would have become and how it would have affected the couple/family.
All these thoughts drive women into believing they did something wrong. It takes long after the initial shock of getting an abortion to start thinking those thoughts. Yet, they are as strong and overwhelming as if they were just outside the operating room. Abortion is not an experience that is easy to get over. Depending on the case, some women almost never get over it.
Because a lot of stigma still surrounds abortion, many women get distant from people when they have an abortion. Even some friends can be judgmental at this time and take a step back. That is when feelings of isolation kick in for women and make them feel like they live in their own bubble. The feelings of loneliness can be so overwhelming that it starts affecting mental health.
Sometime, friends and family are helpful. In such cases, the feeling of isolation stems from guilt and/or depression. The woman herself is dealing with a lot of conflicting and overwhelming emotions at this time, which makes her refrain from regular social contact. She may tend to keep herself hidden, even from people who have no idea what is going on with her, such as co-workers, distant friends, or even the girl who sells her a daily dose of coffee. Whether the feelings of isolation are the product of people’s reactions or come from within, they are equally disturbing and almost put life on hold.
Depression is a mood disorder. It results from life-changing events. Usually, depression follows something that drastically changes a person, like loss or illness. What happens during depression is simply put, lack of interest in life. It is manifested as lack of interest in food, sex, previous interests, entertainment, and anything else a person used to enjoy before the event happened. Of course, it interrupts a person’s regular lifestyle.
After an abortion, feelings of guilt, regret, and shame may contribute to depression. Like isolation, depression may result from people or may be due to the woman herself feeling bad about what happened. Grief alone does not necessarily contribute to long-term depression, but the line is pretty blurred between them. It is possible to develop depression fast enough that they are seen as mere grief feelings that should subside on their own, when there is actually a much bigger problem hidden underneath.
It is a no-brainer that all the emotional consequences that come from the physical or psychological consequences of abortion need to be handled well. Sometimes, the support of friends, family, a partner or a support group is not enough. In comes professional help, AKA therapy! Many women require therapy after abortion, whether immediately or long after.
Therapy can help a woman deal with her feelings and face the feelings she gets as a result of what people do and say to her. It can also be the only way she can talk without fear. Some women choose to keep their business private, which means that they prefer therapy to talking to friends, even if those friends are totally on board. It could be expensive, but for women who can afford it, it is totally worth it. Women who cannot afford therapy should consider the emotional consequences as much as the physical ones so they can find an alternative coping mechanism.